Sequential Plasmodium chabaudi and Plasmodium berghei infections provide a novel model of severe malarial anemia

Juliana V. Harris, Tiffany M. Bohr, Catherine Stracener, Mary E. Landmesser, Vladimir Torres, Amos Mbugua, Chantal Moratz, José A. Stoute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Lack of an adequate animal model of Plasmodium falciparum severe malarial anemia (SMA) has hampered the understanding of this highly lethal condition. We developed a model of SMA by infecting C57BL/6 mice with P. chabaudi followed after recovery by P. berghei infection. P. chabaudi/P. berghei-infected mice had an initial 9- to 10-day phase of relatively low parasitemia and severe anemia, followed by a second phase of hyperparasitemia, more profound anemia, reticulocytosis, and death 14 to 21 days after infection. P. chabaudi/P. berghei-infected animals had more intense splenic hematopoiesis, higher interleukin-10 (IL-10)/tumor necrosis factor alpha and IL-12/gamma interferon (IFN-γ) ratios, and higher antibody levels against P. berghei and P. chabaudi antigens than P. berghei-infected or P. chabaudi-recovered animals. Early treatment with chloroquine or artesunate did not prevent the anemia, suggesting that the bulk of red cell destruction was not due to the parasite. Red cells from P. chabaudi/P. berghei-infected animals had increased surface IgG and C3 by flow cytometry. However, C3 -/- mice still developed anemia. Tracking of red cells labeled ex vivo and in vivo and analysis of frozen tissue sections by immunofluorescence microscopy showed that red cells from P. chabaudi/P. berghei-infected animals were removed at an accelerated rate in the liver by erythrophagocytosis. This model is practical and reproducible, and its similarities with P. falciparum SMA in humans makes it an appealing system with which to study the pathogenesis of this condition and explore potential immunomodulatory interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2997-3007
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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